Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Guess What Santa Brought Me!!

The best stocking stuffer ever.....a $700 bill for car repairs!

And I was lucky enough to get it after doing almost all of my holiday shopping! It just keeps getting better, doesn't it? (Note: the dripping sound you hear would be my sarcasm.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

No Rest for the Weary

Gosh, there's so much to catch up on here in the blog world. I've managed to read a few blogs here and there since we've been back, but other than that, I've been lucky just to keep my head above water. We got back last Saturday - back to our own little bubble - and enjoyed dinner out with friends, which left us Sunday to unpack, launder, and put away clothes, etc.

As Fate would have it, H started complaining of a really bad toothache on Sunday. I checked out her gums, and yep, two of her adult side molars had already cut through, despite the fact that the baby teeth were still there -- OUCH! An emergency dentist appointment on Monday resulted in 3 of her teeth getting extracted and $125 getting extracted from my wallet. On top of this, my students' final papers were due the next day, so you can just imagine how many of them were e-mailing me or wanting to meet for a conference to discuss revisions to their drafts. They really have no clue that I have a life outside of teaching them, do they??

On Tuesday, I turned my attention to revising a Statement of Research I'm submitting as part of an application to attend a faculty seminar at Big Early Modern Research Institute. It just so happens that the seminar topic is focused on some of the exact same questions that I investigate in my dissertation, and it's being directed by a scholar whose work is foundational to my project. This is all well and good, you see, except for one tiny thing: I'm not a faculty member. My university is part of the Institute's consortium, and they've occasionally admitted an advanced graduate student to a seminar, but it's a rarity. The Institute's Director reviewed my statement, however, and had lots of positive things to say with *no* recommendations for revisions, and I'll have two letters of recommendation from committee members who've led or will be leading seminars there as well, so I think my application packet is about as good as it can be right now. I'll hope for the best, but expect nothing....Keep your fingers crossed for me though!

H's medication had been taking effect, and we're generally quite impressed with the changes we've seen. Here is a sample of the new and improved H:

- on the flight back from Big NE Town, she did 4 homework sheets, back-to-back, on her
own! She searched the text to find answers by herself, she didn't feel the need to take any
breaks, and her work was accurate! I've NEVER seen her do work like that before; it was
simply amazing!

- when we got back last weekend, we let her invite a friend for a sleepover. This friend is one
she often bickers with quite a bit, because the two of them are a lot alike in some ways. This
time, though, H was willing to compromise with and even accommodate her friend on things
like which movie to watch at bedtime or whether or not to sleep with a night-light. Usually
when they argue, it's like WWIII and H is so sensitive that she gets her feelings hurt at every
little thing.

- She remembers what she's been asked to do!! When I ask her to go brush her teeth, she
goes right to the bathroom, brushes, and it's done. She doesn't get sidetracked by the
commercial on t.v. or her sister playing with a toy in the floor as she walks by. She
remembers what the task is and finishes it.

Now, this is not to say things are perfect. The one main issue we have now is The Wall: the period in the evening when her meds start to wear off (usually around 7:30). Because this is also the time when she finishes up homework, takes a bath, and gets ready for bed, The Wall effect has been a nightmare at times. Thursday night I ended up in tears in the bedroom because I was so spent after having argued/explained/tried to talk to her about a homework assignment. She didn't have any questions, and the task was very simple - write an introductory paragraph describing the special person you've chosen to write a story about - but nothing I said was what she wanted to hear. And worse, nothing much of what she said was making any sense. It's become a regular habit for her, during these Wall effect battles, to tell me she hates me, that I'm the worst mom ever, or that she wishes I weren't her mother. I know she can't control what she's saying. I know it's the meds wearing off, and I know she's sincerely sorry almost as soon as she hears the words come out of her mouth. Nonetheless, it hurts. It hurts every time, and it gets really tough to be patient and gentle and forgiving and pretend like it's okay.

There are obviously other medication options, but they each come with their own disadvantages (peaks and valleys, for example). She goes for follow-up visits to both the pediatrician and the psychologist this week, so I plan on talking with them both to see if a)this is something that can be helped at all by the meds and b)what kind of response to this behavior would be most effective. I can't believe that I'm just supposed to sit there and take it, but I also can't imagine punishing my child for something she has relatively little control over.

And just when I thought a Break was near, losing the past two weeks of dissertation work time - on top of Christmas week, when I'll have 2 sets of houseguests - means that there will be no Break for me. I'm ready to get back to work, but the thought of having no Break in sight is a bit depressing right now, because I really am tired. So tired.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

When It Rains, It Pours: Thanksgiving Edition of RBoC

- On Tuesday, H had her interview with the clinical psychologist. After he finished, he said he was ready to make his diagnosis. He diagnosed it as a "classic" case of ADHD-Inattentive Dominant. We'll now see our pediatrician to discuss meds, then back to the Psych a couple weeks later for parent training (a weird name for what is basically a discussion of we - as a family unit - can help H be successful at home).

- My brother, who's 26, broke his nose for the second time earlier this week.

- This same brother found 2 testicular lumps, and the person in charge of reading the results of the ultrasound isn't back in the office until next week. (Note: my brother is currently in vet school on an island in the Caribbean, which isn't really the first place I think of when I imagine top-notch medical care).

- After waking from a 6-hour recuperative nap yesterday, my mom watched E while hubby and I went to dinner and a movie (No Country for Old Men...very good, very McCarthy, very much not the kind of narrative the people in Home State can get, much less appreciate).

- I've single-handedly gotten my mother (who previously rarely ever drank any kind of alcohol) hooked on this fabulous aperitif wine I had last weekend when hubby and I went out to celebrate our anniversary. On Thanksgiving Day, she had at least 3-4 glasses!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

By Request: The Superglue Story

By request of mgm (in a comment on my 7 things post), here's the infamous superglue story.

When I was 11, I was trying to open a tube of superglue - you know the kind with the plastic screw-off tip - while sitting in the living room recliner. I couldn't get the tip off with my hands, so I went to Plan B: using my teeth. Just as I was gripping the tip between my back teeth, my brother came around the corner, from behind the chair, and knocked into my elbow, thereby shoving the tube across my canine teeth. My canine teeth are somewhat pointy, so they easily pierced the tube of superglue, as it gushed through my mouth and the back of my throat---ugh!

I don't know whether it was the texture, the taste, or the mere knowledge of what was oozing around in my mouth, but my immediate reaction was to start gagging. It turns out that gagging is quite difficult when one's teeth are GLUED SHUT! My grandma was watching my brother and I at the time, so she called 911 and my mother, who rushed home and took me to the ER.

Alas, I lived. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Seven Weird Things Meme

My thanks to mom at Outside the (Toy)Box for tagging me for this meme, thereby getting my blogging arse back in gear:

1. I have a freakish aversion to hearing any sort of food chewing. That is, not only can I not stand what I've always known as "smacking" - talking with ones mouth open - but I literally cannot stand to be in a room when I can hear someone chewing, crunching especially. I have to walk out of the room. Even when it's my husband, and he's eating cereal for breakfast...I just have to go somewhere else. The worst: I can't stand to be heard chewing either. If I think someone can hear me, I'll usually just not eat or wait until I can be in a room alone.

2. I'm 6'2", which is kinda weird in its own right, but even more unusual is that when I was playing basketball in high school, I was still a really fast runner. As in, I could run the 100-yd. dash in the same time as the fastest girl in the school (who was like 5'3" and so quick that her nickname was Bunny).

3. I have been to the emergency room several times for the same recurring problem: having things in my mouth that don't belong there (yes, I know how that sounds). Things like rat poison (when I was 5-ish), a piece of a live Christmas tree (when I was 8-ish), and super glue (when I was 11-ish). Yes, I swallowed super glue, and with teeth glued shut, simultaneously fought back the vomit that was trying to come up in my throat! A lovely image for you, I'm sure!

4. Ever since forever, I have the most memorable dreams. Whether they're good or bad, or just plain weird (which is usually the case), I remember things vividly: color of carpet, what people were wearing, word-for-word conversations, etc. There's even been one instance of a dream about a place that had closed down before I was born. Somehow, I dreamed about the interior of a hotel in my hometown - describing its curtains, seat arrangement, paint color, entry doors, everything - but my mom told me that I couldn't have dreamed it because the hotel closed before I was born.

5. I've kissed a girl. With tongue. And I wasn't drunk or tricked into it or anything. It was...not like kissing a guy, and oddly enough, I missed the facial hair.

6. Despite being what many would consider a radical feminist - I'd identify as pro-sex, pro-choice, etc. - I've had plastic surgery. It was one of the best decisions of my life, and my only regret was that I didn't do it sooner.

7. These are multiples, but they're all in the same category of concert/quasi-brush-with-fame things: I've touched Garth Brooks's inner thigh (a long story); I've gotten a guitar pick from Ted Nugent; my uncle was in the movie Top Gun; when I was a junior, I set a record for most points scored in a single basketball game, and the local radio station and newspaper ran stories on me.

Now, I tag whoever has the time to complete this meme and has some really weird, random stuff that I've never heard about!!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Here's a New One: A Screw In My Shoulder

Okay, seriously, we've all heard some pretty bad excuses from students about why they couldn't be in class, why they didn't turn their work in on time, or why they must absolutely be given one more chance to do a major project correctly.

But, what - I say what the hell - does one say to the student who, after missing class today, e-mails a short message to indicate that the attached picture [yes, there was indeed an attached picture of an x-ray photo with what appeared to be a nail in someone's shoulder] is the reason why ze missed class?
And further,

- that ze has no idea how it got there (must have been one helluva night)
- ze has already been "opened up" by a doctor today, but the doctor couldn't remove it
- another surgery has been scheduled, which might put ze out for a few days, but ze is bound and determined to come to Wednesday's class no matter how ze feels

I mean, really...WTF? I'm tempted to just say, "Sorry to hear about your bad luck. Make sure to get a doctor's note for that." because this student has already missed over a week of class and has performed miserably throughout the semester. Why this person is even still hanging around, I'm not sure...

So I ask, what would you say???

Random Notes and Catching Up

Last week was a bit of a blur as I conferenced yet again with H's teachers, re-read the novel I'm teaching (Roxana), evaluated about 20 rough drafts, prepared for and followed through with the obligatory Halloween festivities, and spent lots of extra time helping H with various homework-related tasks. For about four straight nights, I didn't go to bed before 1:00 a.m. --- this is in contrast to my usual 10:00 p.m. bedtime. What little time I had in between all of this was spent trying desperately to finish the draft of my first full dissertation chapter. So, by the time the weekend arrived, I was ready for some much needed vegetation (as in I was the vegetable). Thus, here are some random notes to catch things up:

- H's teachers were happy to report that they've been noticing some improvement already. She came home with almost all Bs on her homework grades last week, and she made an A on her continents & oceans test! Whether this is due to them moving her seat to avoid distractions, calling on her more frequently, or something H is now doing to stay more focused, I don't know. But, we've made several changes at home in our homework time protocol, and they've made an obvious difference.

- I've read quite a bit of Understanding Girls with ADHD, one of the few books on the disorder that focuses on girls and the inattentive type symptoms that H has. Let's just say that if I was upset, guilty, and sad before reading this, I can now add mad as hell to the list of emotions! Almost everything we know about ADHD is based on boys. That is, the symptoms, the diagnostic indicators, and even the forms given to teachers to fill out when they make referrals, are all based on the stereotypical hyperactive-dominant form that's most often associated with boys. In ways that seriously affect almost every aspect of their lives, from before diagnosis (if they ever get one) into adulthood, girls with ADHD face a dramatically different experience from teachers, some parents, and their peers. I could go on forever, but I'll stop by simply saying that more attention has to be paid to this issue NOW!

- Halloween was a hit...Lots of candy, cute kids in costumes, and everyone was still in bed on time :)

- I can happily report that my very first full dissertation chapter will, indeed, be finished this week! WOOHOO!! It's only a draft, but that baby will be done! I'm only a mere 4-5 pages away.....I can taste it.

- We meet with the clinical psychologist on Thursday. I've filled out all the paperwork, which included an 18-page health history form for H, and I'm anxious to hear what the "expert" has to say.

Now, those mere 4-5 pages call, so I return to them. More to come after the doctor's appointment Thursday.

Friday, October 26, 2007

An Epilogue to The Boy and The Note

One of the things I'd been meaning to post (before this week's big news) was an Epilogue on The Boy and The Note situation. Last week, I found yet another scrap of notebook paper in H's backpack that had some sort of scribbling on it. I always have to check them because I never know if it's work she's done for school, or a reminder note from a teacher, another child, etc. This note read something like:

"Im relly sory for telling on you. Do you forgiv me?"

There was no addressee, but the name of one of her friends was also on the paper. So, I asked if she and her friend Brooke had recently had any problems. She insisted that they hadn't, but after some coaxing, she then explained that she'd hurt Brooke's feelings somehow and was asking Brooke to forgive her. She said that everything was okay now, but she wouldn't tell me what happened. She argued that it was "private."

My response: "Okay, if you say so... You're the only one who knows the truth."

A minute later...She caved.

H: "Okay, here's the truth."

She proceeded to explain that the note was to The Boy, asking for forgiveness for getting him in so much trouble. As it turns out, The Boy's Mother (TBM) is crazy. Like, wacko-strict-parent-with-a-possible-temper-issue crazy. After hearing the report from the after-school program, TBM responded by "whooping" her child. This 8-yr old boy got a spanking for asking my daughter - in a note - if she'd like to kiss "French style."

I'd anticipated the possibility of him returning and being a bit upset with H because he'd been outed, but I figured the worst punishment he'd face might be a grounding or something. I never imagined he'd be physically hit! He, obviously, was more than a little resentful, and because H is a super-sensitive kid. She'll cry at any human interest story on the news. Naturally, then, she felt incredibly guilty about the whole thing. To make things worse, he circled the "No" box on the note H wrote him, asking him for forgiveness!!

I tried to explain to her that he'd probably come around, that he just needed some time. I also reminded her that she didn't tell on him, but rather I'd found the note in her backpack by chance. She told me she'd lied about the note because she was afraid she'd be in trouble for violating the "No more notes to The Boy rule." I think I did the right thing. I didn't even mention the rule. Instead, I explained:

"Wow, when you heard how much trouble The Boy got in, you must have been really sad, huh? I can completely understand why you felt bad, because he's someone that you're friends with...So it makes sense that you'd feel like you should apologize and ask for his forgiveness."

I didn't freak out. I didn't give her any consequences for breaking the rule. I tried to establish this as a precedent that things - the Law especially - aren't always black and white. And that many times there are other feelings we have that make us do something even when we know it's against the rules. I used this as an example of showing her that when she talks to me and is honest with me about her problems, that I'll listen and try to put myself in her shoes.

I think it's worked so far because when I took her out to dinner last night - just the two of us, eating our favorite Indian food - she was open about the questions and concerns she has about this ADHD thing (that will be my next post). I just don't want to take any day for granted because I know how precious of a gift it is that she's still willing to be open with me and talk about her problems. My (natural) father put the Fear of God into me when I was a child, and it's not something that goes away easily (maybe not at all). I don't ever want my children to be afraid of me and have that fear driving their decisions and the dynamic between us.

So for now, here's another tic mark on the I Think I Did It Right side of the parenting scoreboard.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

And the Doctor Said

First, let me thank those of you who commented on yesterday's post. I think if I hear enough voices telling me not to feel guilty, then I may just believe it one day. I'm going to skip over the talk I had with H last night because it will upset me again. Needless to say, she was upset, afraid, and confused. She explained how she doesn't want anything "to be wrong with her," but she understands that we're going to figure out a way to make things better for her. The language she uses is "to help keep me from going to La La Land," a phrase her teachers have used.

At today's visit with H's pediatrician, we learned several things:

- all signs point toward her having ADHD - Inattentive Dominant

- girls are more likely to have this type, and they usually go undiagnosed because they're not disturbing anyone. Rather, they sit quietly at their desks, concentrating on something else, playing with a toy in their lap, etc. Because they aren't bouncing off the walls, the teacher doesn't always notice a problem

- comparatively speaking (b/c of the above), we are catching this early in H

- in our doctor's experience, medication is the most effective treatment, though he also recommends other coping skills (for example, instead of telling H to clean her room, I will now ask her to do one thing at a time, like picking up her shoes. Then, I can start her on a new task.)

- the psychologist's testing process will take about two hours, and the results will then be sent to our doctor, who will consult with us about the results and discuss treatment options

- there are two types of medication: stimulant and non-stimulant. Regardless of which one she may use, chances are high that she'll be on the medication until she's out of high school

- whatever prescription option we choose, our doctor will absolutely begin with the lowest dose possible

I feel like I have a bit more focus on this today, but my main concern remains on H and how she will cope with what she sees as a "problem" with her brain. Of course, I'm also worried about the possible side effects of any medication, especially after all the horror stories I've read about kids being turned into Ritalin zombies. The doctor gave us some pamphlets and other material to read through, so I'll tackle that tonight while she's in dance class...

Which makes me think: do I now need to tell her dance instructor about this? Will all of her teachers need to know? What about the parents of her friends when she has a sleepover? I get the impression she's embarrassed, and I don't know how to get her to understand this in terms of quality of life and health, as opposed to normal/abnormal, right/wrong. I'm really overwhelmed by this all, so I'm hoping my husband and I can have some evening time to ourselves tomorrow to unwind and talk about this together. On the other hand, I just want to hold H in my lap and hug her forever.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where did I Go Wrong, and How do I Make it Right?

From day one of 3rd grade, H has been struggling. At first, and for good reasons, we attributed it to a really bad 2nd grade teacher/experience. Over time, though, it became clear that her struggle was more than a matter of her not having a solid foundation when she started the year. For example, her weakest subject was math in 1st and 2nd grades. We expected there would be problems with this again, and there were. Then, we started seeing her language arts skills drop, her grades in social science and spelling also went downhill. She has had occasional upswings, usually after we imposed a series of consequences at home. Her behavior was never an issue. Rather, when we conferenced with her teachers, they explained that the problem was with her inability to focus. Again, we thought this was something we could "motivate" her to improve by taking away privileges (t.v., movies, computer time, and most important - time with friends).

Things didn't change. Not only did they not change, last week witnessed an unparalleled downward spiral as she brought home a packet of failed worksheets and tests. Concerned, her teachers requested a conference (of course, I'd immediately had the same idea).

This morning, I met with her teachers and they recommended that I take H to see her pediatrician and have her undergo testing and evaluation for Attention Deficit Disorder. They described her as often looking like she was paying attention for about a minute, then drifting off with another thought that had just entered her head, only to return to the present moment as the teacher called on her for an answer. Of course, she'd find herself unable to answer and unable to move forward on her work because she'd missed critical instructions and information. They both believe that she's been doing her best to improve focus, but that this is something that's beyond her control. Between the two teachers, they have over 50 years of experience, so I trust that they know what they're talking about and can recognize the difference between a daydreamer and a child who's suffering from a neurological disorder.

She's not a hyperactive child. She's got energy, but she's never been one to bounce off the walls. But suddenly, as I listened to them describe my daughter's efforts to pay attention, her personality, history, and daily habits flashed in my mind's eye in a completely new way. I thought of all the times I'd had to ask her to do something 3 or 4 times, or remind her what task she was supposed to be working on. Just this morning, after I told her twice the three things she needed to do to finish getting ready - brush teeth, put on shoes, and put folders in her backpack - I found her in her bathroom singing into the mirror and picking at her teeth. She'd simply lost track of what she was supposed to be doing in there.

I'm still sort of reeling with questions, emotions, fears, and tons of guilt. I ask myself how I failed to see this. I kick myself for giving her consequences for something that she had no control over. I try to rehearse the talk I'll have to have with her before she sees the pediatrician tomorrow. I think of how to help her not be afraid or think there's something "wrong" with her. I imagine how hard this year has been for her, as she has tried her best yet continued to face my disappointment. I try to avoid using the internet for "information" on ADD and its treatment. I feel completely out of my league, with no plans or certainties for the how to go forward and make things better for my child.

I can't bring myself to actively seek out any information right now, other than what I'll receive from our doctor tomorrow (and the psychologist thereafter). So, I'm asking the few readers who visit to share positive stories, experience, and information about ADD, its treatment, and dealing with it as a family.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Buzzy Bee: She's One Year Old Today!

Today is E's first birthday! Instead of a party, on Saturday we took the girls to a Country Fair that was sponsored by our church. We pulled E around in her new wagon (a great gift from my dad) - which she loved - and let her take a pony ride, pet goats and llamas, sit next to a baby deer, and munch on the apples her sister went bobbing for. A fantastic family day! No decorations, no planning, no was just what we wanted. On Sunday, she did have one birthday guest; her friend Wild Man, who was born just three days before her, came over to exchange gifts and enjoy some of the Buzzy Bee cake I made! Again, very low-key, but still special to her and us.
So, a big Happy Birthday to E, one of the busiest bees in my house!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's Done, and I'm Off

Taking another big breath. More like a sigh of relief. The conference paper is done, despite E deciding that this week would be a good time to get a yucky stomach bug and cut two new teeth, which prevented her from being able to attend montessori until yesterday. Her staying at home meant hubby staying home with her, while I worked furiously at the office to:

- write the damn conference paper,
- prepare materials for Friday's class and the instructor who'll be filling in for me (thank you again Supadiscomama!),
- hold several conferences with students who are still floundering with the concept of writing anything other than a mere summary of a poem.

I've been confident all along that if I survive the month, everything else is cake. This week, it became an issue of, if I can survive this week, I'll be happy to be alive!

With the backpack loaded with conference paper, stacks of papers to grade, and materials with which I must plan the schedule for the remainder of the semester, I'll soon be off to Home State. Since E made a recovery in time, and my mother is convinced she can handle the minor crankiness of a teething baby, E will be joining H and I on the 6-hour drive back home. While I'm at the conference, E will be staying with my parents - Nana and Papaw - for the very first time without mommy and daddy. Tomorrow morning will find me flying to Conference City, putting in a long day at the conference, complete with dinner and plenary lecture, and then driving to my aunt and uncle's house for lodging (I finally have a conference near relatives!). Aside from all teaching duties, my goals for the weekend are to

- Make some good contacts!
I have a horrible habit of shutting myself up in the hotel room, only attending the sessions that sound interesting, and only speaking to others when I'm spoken to first. This is not good, and I know it must change. The plenary speaker is also an editor for one of the journals in my field, and she's someone I've considered inviting to campus as part of a symposium on early modern women playwrights.

- Watch the football game of Home State College Team on Saturday.
I realizes these goals are somewhat at odds with each other, as my panel is on Saturday and so is the game. And, English academics aren't known for vegging in front of the lobby bar's t.v. to watch some pigskin. But, one must make room for change, right?

I may blog while I'm gone, taking advantage of extremely rare Time Away from Husband and Children. Or, maybe I'll do as a friend recently recommended: go wild and crazy on the town! :)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Boy Situation: An Update

The Boy situation has been least, for now. On Thursday, I spoke with the afterschool program's assistant director and explained what had happened. I asked that the counselors make sure to keep an eye on H and The Boy during the free time they have on the playground. Since their interaction is limited to the afterschool program, the asst. director felt like it was their responsibility to contact The Boy's mother and inform her of the situation. After hearing this, and considering my usual Wait 24 Hours Before Making a Decision Policy, I decided to wait and see how their conversation with her went. As hubby pointed out, if The Boy's mother took my call the wrong way, there may be the risk of some sort of retaliation against H, especially if The Boy got in trouble.

Thursday evening, I sat H down for an informal talk while hubby was in the other room, hoping that his exclusion would help her feel comfortable to say whatever she needed to say. I didn't give her the chance to deny asking The Boy to "go out." Rather, I simply asked why she did it. She said, "Because I thought I was old enough." Yes. That's the best she had. I explained that she was indeed not old enough. Nowhere near old enough. Then, I asked her if she knew what kissing "French style" meant. Here's the exchange:

H: "I don't know."
Me: "Really? You don't have any idea? What do you think it might mean?"
H: "Maybe the way they kiss in France?"

Yeah, I'm not buying it either. If she knows - and there's a good chance she knows - she clearly wasn't comfortable talking about it. Or, she simply doesn't want me to know that she knows. Either way, just for good measure, I made several things clear:
1) she is no longer allowed to pass notes to The Boy

2) she should tell me or her dad immediately if The Boy says/does anything that is hurtful or inappropriate. This is the only way we can deal with the situation in a timely manner and find a solution

3) kids who are caught kissing in any "style" at school have major suspension, so this is clearly not a wise idea

4) talking to me about things like this is the only way I can help. As long as she's honest with me, we can work together to solve problems, and not telling me about this disappointed me and made me feel like she was trying to hide it.

The next day, I checked back with the ass. director. He reported that The Boy's mother was equally shocked...ahem, bullsh*t...and couldn't imagine where her son had even heard of such a thing....(Gee, I wonder...). She asked him to apologize to me on her behalf, explained that she'd be picking The Boy up extra early this week to allow some separation time, and requested that the counselors work to keep the two separated when possible. She also said that should I (or H) have any future problems with The Boy, to feel free to call her and let her know. This was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for, so I was glad that I waited and let someone else make that call to her.

I know The Boy situation is larger than this particular boy. I know that sometime between now and the end of next summer, H and I will have "The Talk" because I want her to get that information from me first (the school shows a video in 4th grade). But for now, I'd like to enjoy a few more months of my child being a child, protected from all the details, conversations, and playground antics that work to sexualize children as young as 8 and 9 years old. I want to savor the time in which I'm the one she comes to with questions, problems, and concerns. The Boy situation will be much larger soon enough.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Guess What I Found!

This morning, as I was helping H get her backpack ready so we could get out the door, I stumbled upon what will now be known as The Note. Today is Crazy Hat Day at her school, which means children can pay $1 - the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society - to wear their favorite/most crazy hat to school. While she dug for $1 out of her piggy bank, I was putting her folders in her backpack. This required some cleaning out of the backpack. Removing a few loose papers, I noticed our home phone number written on a piece of paper. Looking closely, here is what I discover:

1st entry, in H's handwriting:
"Do you want to go out? My phone number is ***-****."

2nd entry, in someone else's handwriting:
"Yes. When we go on the field trip to the park do you want to kiss (French style)?"

Yes. You read this right. My 3rd grade daughter was not only asking a boy out on a date, but she in turn was solicited for some smoochy action!

I immediately asked her what the note was, and she desperately tried to explain that she didn't write the last part, that it was all The Boy's fault, and that she wasn't asking him on a date, but rather asking if his family would like to go somewhere with our family --- Yeah...bullshit on that last part!!

I then showed my husband the note, which he found quite amusing simply because of The Boy's word choice - "the French style" - and the fact that he'd put this in parentheses...I was not amused in the least. I explained to H that I would be calling The Boy's parents - both of them - as well as calling the after-school program she attends. Apparently, the field trip is associated with the scrapbooking club that H and The Boy are both members of.

Despite H's continued attempts to vehemently denounce The Boy's question - even the mere idea - this is obviously evidence that 3rd grade ain't what it used to be! Hell, I didn't even get my first "French" kiss until I was almost 14! I've talked to her about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior with boys, and I've made it clear that there will be no "boyfriend" business at her age. Should I just face the fact that she's getting to the "boy crazy" stage? Should I be worried that even at 8-years old, she might be lying to me about what she's doing with boys? I don't want to make the mistake of overreacting, but I also want to prevent problems before they start. Do you think I'm out of line by calling The Boy's parents? Is it unreasonable to put her in a convent now?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

So Much to Say, So Little Time

It's probably a good thing I have so damn much work to do right now - grading, writing the conference paper for next week, completing the application for the travel grant to attend said conference, course planning for next week, and oh yeah, that dissertation - because this report could easily induce me into an hours-long rant about how much I despise Cowboy George.

Let me see if I've got this right:
170 billion additional dollars for the war (which results in death) problem.

35 billion dollars to maintain/improve the health of our nation's children (which results in life or at minimum, improved quality of living)....sorry, no dice. WTF?

Notes on a Field Trip

Since I'm coming up briefly for air, I thought I'd post some notes on the field trip I went on with H last Friday. Her 3rd grade class has been studying the Civil War from a variety of angles - economics, science, math, and history - to learn about issues directly related to the war: slavery and the production of cotton specifically. Friday's field trip was to a local cotton mill, where we got to see an operating cotton gin, observe the processing/packaging of the cotton, and explore the cotton fields. Getting to said cotton mill included a bus ride with 40+ third graders in 90+ degree heat, all windows down. My observations (p.s. if anyone knows how to do bullets on here, let me know):

- Buses still suck. I'd forgotten how quickly the dirt and wind blowing through windows covers your body with the smell of "outside funk," which only adds to the "kid funk" oozing through the inside of the bus.

- By third grade, it is clear that the most important thing about field trips - other than missing class - is who you sit next to on the bus. This is critical, and if you wait too long in making a decision, you could end up sitting all by yourself, or worse: begging the girl two seats up to leave her current friend to come sit next to you.

- Nobody likes a tattletale. Not in third grade...not least not when it comes to the small stuff (like sticking three fingers out the window).

- Upon having children in school, one is no longer an individual person with a name. One is, from this point on, simply known as H's Mom. As in, "H's Mom, can you tell Mikey to stop putting his fingers out the window?!"

- Putting ear plugs in the grimy, wax-laden ears of other people's children is really gross.

- A 25-minute bus ride with 40+ third graders in 90+ degree heat, followed by 2 hours at a cotton mill and field and no water breaks until the trip is over can lead to The Most Severe Migraine Ever Known to Man.

- Honestly? The parent who comes along to document, photograph, and video every moment of their child's experience on the field trip - fanny packs, camera equipment, and posing instructions included - not only looks like a dork, but also misses the whole point of the experience.

- We really should get to take field trips as adults? They are entirely different than trips taken on weekends or vacations, per se. They are a special treat for an entire group, taken at a time when said group is supposed to be going about their normal routine. They are planned by someone else, so all one has to do is 1)look forward to the trip and 2) bring a sack lunch. Few things in life provide such pleasure with such little effort.

- Teachers who take such trips under said conditions are freakin awesome, and so are the people who help make them possible!

- Simply being there with your child can make their entire day fantastic! H didn't budge from my side the entire time. She clung to me, proudly, and I could see that having me there made her feel so special. Seeing that made everything else totally worth it!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Pirate and a Bumblebee Walk Into...

the living room!

That's right...It's the Great Pumpking Charlie Brown! Halloween is near! And Nana has just purchased Halloween costumes for both girls :)

H will be a pirate, this one to be specific, though she will be wearing a tank or tee underneath (I've just noticed the little belly exposure). And there will be no least not the ones in that picture.

E, who will have just turned 1 by the time H-Day rolls around, will be the cutest damn BumbleBee you ever saw! She just learned how to make the "buzz" sound, so I thought this would be a perfect costume for her!

I'm so excited for Halloween this year...But with two girls to take around our safe, quiet little neighborhood, nobody will be home to hand out candy :( Which means I won't have any reason to buy Halloween candy - double boo! I'll figure out a reason by then, I'm sure :)

Gee, it Took Long Enough

Now that the much-delayed national attention is on Jena, LA (it took long enough!), please know that you can sign the online petition to release the Jena Six by going here .

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

One Project Down...How Many More to Go?

Done Today - finished draft of the proposal for team-taught course with my advisor! Got the cover memo done, the syllabus, and the reading selections for primary material! Not bad for less than 1 working day, if I do say so myself :)

Now, how many more things do I have to do?? The Ever-Growing Pile of Homework to Be Graded is threatening to come off my desk and attack me. And then there's that little diss chapter...And I can't forget about the conference paper. Hmmmmm, which to start with tomorrow??

Bad Day Gone far...

What started out as a bad day is starting to look up. This morning, it took me 15 minutes just to get out of my little subdivision to the Main Rd. I usually take to campus. Mind you, the total distance is probably only half a mile! Considering the back-up, I decided to take an alternative route. Of course, when I pulled up to the second main intersection, I was greeted by stoplights that had gone haywire and police directing very slow 8:00 a.m. traffic. I thought to myself: "Maybe the stars just aren't lining up for you today." Nevertheless, I trooped on.

Then, as I'm walking E into her montessori, I realize I've just locked my ONLY set of keys in my vehicle! Unlike any other normal vehicle in the universe, this vehicle has no lock key. Rather, it has only a keyless entry opener, and we only have one. Frustrated by the fact that I'll now have to call the Pop-a-Lock people - and thoroughly convinced that the stars are lined against me - I walk into the baby room only to find that a "sub" is filling in for the main caregiver. Arrghhh! Granted, this is the first time a new face has ever appeared, and it only appeared this time b/c they needed someone to be there at 7:30 a.m. But, E wasn't too keen on the idea of being held by New Person, and New Person seemed a bit flaky. She's had experience as a sub at the montessori, but she usually fills in for assistants (not lead teachers), and she usually does so in the toddler rooms (not the baby room). So, there I was, waiting for the $30 Pop-a-Lock man to show up and waiting for the other Regular Caregiver that works in the baby room to get there. So much for being early today.

But, the day got better when I walked into my usual Starbucks. Before I even got to the register, my favorite barista had already made my "regular" drink, and he was handing it to me as I paid! How great is that?!

Then, my students brightened my day with their shy blushes, giggles, and quite accurate explications of one of the day's assigned poems: e e cummings's "she being Brand." It's always fun to teach this poem! It's fun for the students who "get" the implied metaphor, and it's fun to watch those who are "getting it" precisely as it is read aloud in class....They just can't believe they missed it! They also read Swift's "The Lady's Dressing Room" and Montagu's "A Gentleman's Study," both of which a) totally grossed the out, and b) gave them some idea of just how dirty and crude grooming habits in the 17th & 18th centuries were.

In short, they made my job quite easy today and gave me some laughs too boot! Maybe the day will continue getting better :)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Progress = Reward...I hope

Yay!!...I met my "quota" of pages (plus an extra one), so I get my "reward" of a blog post before I rush off to pick up E from the montessori. Indeed, part of my recent blog absence is due to other potential "rewards" for which I'm applying. Though I'm confident I'm forgetting something, here's an idea of what's on my plate:

Tonight: run to the store on the way home for much needed household goods; make dinner; take H to hip-hop class; grade tests to hand back tomorrow; balance checkbook and pray for money to mysteriously appear in the register; read/prep for tomorrow's class

Tomorrow: Revise proposal (see below)

Saturday: the deadline to submit my proposal to a panel at the National Conference of the main group for my area of study

Monday: I'll get my students' first essays to grade (yippee )

By October 2nd: finish Team Teaching proposal (which would give me the chance to teach a 300 or 400-level course with my advisor); finish application materials for 2 internal dissertation fellowships

By October 12th: write the conference paper I'm presenting on October 13th

**the travel required for the conference is me driving 6 hours to get H back to Home State for visitation with her natural father, then flying out of Home State capitol to conference location on a Friday, flying back to Home State capitol on Sunday in time to pick up H and drive back to College Town before E goes to bed that night...Oh yeah, my mom has just added to this the Great Idea that I should bring E with me and let her stay with my mom while I'm at the conference!***

By October 15th: finish application materials for external, national dissertation fellowship

By October 31st: submit full draft of diss chapter to advisor

Yes, I can tell there are many things I've forgotten... like meetings with students, getting the braces tightened, planning a lecture by an outside visitor for February, finding Halloween costumes for both girls .... but it would hurt my head to try to remember them all right now.

Cool Thing? H tried out for the choir at her school and made it!! Yep, she had actual competition. It's only open to 3rd and 4th graders, but that still means over 200 kids were eligible, and only 60 made it! And, according to H, "tons of kids tried out." So, kudos to H on her first musical success!

Also cool? E's new tooth has *finally* broken through, so maybe now she'll stop trying to use other babies as human teething toys at montessori (Sorry M!).

Still Here...Barely

I'm sure there's light at the end of this tunnel, I just can't see it yet... ugh. "What tunnel?" you might ask. The Tunnel of Deadline Hell, which has me losing sleep, losing weight, and losing some much-needed quality time with my husband. Where to start...

Last week, I got The Braces. And I didn't just get the one set of braces. No...I was the lucky winner of some Grand Cosmic Lottery, so I got the prize of getting 2 different sets of braces put on twice in less than 24 hours!! The short version is that when they put the first set on last Thursday, they used a tube of sealant that was expired. Yes. Bad glue = brackets popping off = keeping them on by smearing wax all over them = me looking like/feeling like an even bigger dork with a mouth full of metal.

So, back to the orthodontist on Friday, at which point the full pain of the braces - which, by the way, they'd put on with a wire that was too heavy - had set in. In fact, my teeth hurt so bad I couldn't bite down on anything, and even the mashed potatoes were a chore to smush around in my mouth. Between 11:00 a.m. on Thursday and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, I'd eaten nothing but a few bites of mashed potatoes and some yogurt. Teeth in agony, I sat there Friday while they replaced all the brackets with new sealant and put new, lighter wires on the top and bottom. You know what the worst part is??? They don't give you any fucking drugs!! Are you kidding me? I don't have a "low" threshold for pain.... I have NO threshold for pain!! I need something better than Advil and Tylenol when it feels like someone is ripping all my teeth out with a pair of pliers for three days straight!

Yesterday was the first day that my teeth didn't hurt, so I finally got to eat something - other than soup - without pain. I still have major ick-reaction to eating though, because of all the crap that gets in the braces. Seriously, I could save all the leftovers in there for a second meal. It's disgusting! That alone is going to make The Braces the most effective weight loss strategy in the world. And, I swear, if you add up all the time I spend brushing my teeth now, it's gotta be at least an hour! Don't even get me started on the special "equipment" I have to use if I want to floss...I'm still not sure if it's worth it.

So, yes, I've been recovering from The Braces from Hell since last Thursday and happily watching my Home State college football team kick serious ass on the field. All the other things I'm doing, well....I'll just have to write another post. That will be my reward if I make adequate progress on the diss this morning. (That's really sad, I know, rewarding myself with time to blog, but such is my life right now).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My First Meme

Stewgad, over at PrettyHard, Dammit, passed along my first meme! So, here goes:

4 jobs I've had in life:
- the golden arches (my first "real" job, the kind where they take taxes out of your paycheck)
- working at a landfill (luckily I was in the office)
- an overpaid administrative assistant at fancy-schmancy Calphalon cookware company
- bank teller

4 places I've lived:
- tiny town #1 in Home State a.k.a. Native America (the school system only went up to 8th grade, then you had to transfer to another district)
- tiny town #2 in Home State (where I went to high school, population 1,100)
- very small town in northwestern Ohio (where I got my MA)
- only slightly bigger town in Boilermaker country (from which I moved to here, College Town, The South)

4 favorite foods:
This one is extremely difficult because I've never met a food I didn't like! I love to cook, I love to eat, and I occasionally like to think of myself as a food officionado...but I'll try to narrow the field.
- Steak, preferably a thick filet mignon with a nice buerre blanc sauce over the top (and rare... like, I want it to "moo" at me)
- I can't live without really great Mexican food like enchiladas verdes (with fresh salsa, a top-shelf margarita, and soapapillas for dessert!)
- Combination fried rice from an excellent Chinese place!
- The pasta served in the restaurants my husband and I ate at in Rome! The best was this Lobster Arrabiata that was the special of the day at a tiny, out-of-the-way diner just outside of Vatican City. Spicy red sauce served over fettucine al dente, with a glass of house vino, all for about 12 euros!

4 places I'd rather be:
- Back in Italy!!
- France
- England (London specifically)
- I'd really like to see the NE in the fall, especially with the girls, and take in some fresh seafood while we watch the foliage turn colors (cliche, but I've never been)

4 movies I can watch over and over:
Difficult b/c I'm the type that, once I've seen it, I really don't need to see it again. But here are my top picks...
- The Sound of Music
- The Notebook
- Top Gun (thank you God for the volleyball scene)
- (almost) anything with Matthew Mcconaughey in it :)

4 t.v. shows I like to watch:
- Grey's Anatomy!!
- Brothers and Sisters
- Desperate Housewives (can you tell I'm an ABC fan?)
- Rick Steves travel shows (I'm such a dork!)

4 websites I view daily:
- Yahoo
- my blogroll peeps
- does my university e-mail count?
- Really, I try to keep the net surfing/time wasting tendency to a bare minimum

4 computers I've owned:
- the pc I bought in 2001 when I started my MA program
- the Dell desktop my mom bought for a joint birthday present for my hubby and I this spring
- Yeah, I've only owned 2 computers :)

4 people to tag:
Canape at Don't Take the Repeats
DR at Writing Maternity
Mad Grad Mom at Diss, Dat, and Diapers

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Two Towheads and the 8-Second Ride

Here they are. My blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauties. I've broken down and posted their pictures. My mom brought H back from Home State on Sunday, then watched E while hubby and I took H to Giant Waterpark on Tuesday. We had a great time, and H was both well-behaved while there and appreciative as we were leaving. As in, she said "Mom, I'm really thankful that I got to come here" without any prompting from me :) On Wednesday, Mom and I took the girls to have their pictures made together - finally - and this is one of the best! The photographer was great, and I let her know I like candid, fun shots, so she went with this pose, and the picture's worth a thousand words. Baby E is clearly happy to be wrangling her sister, who's equally happy to let her do it as long as she gets her close-up. Unfortunately, the session ended in a horrible assault. At my suggestion, the girls were both sitting on the floor, facing each other, and H was putting her forehead against E's. E had apparently had quite enough of the picture taking, and she proceeded to simultaneously grab H's hair with her left hand, bite her nose, and rip out H's earring with her right hand. Photo session over.

Friday, August 17, 2007

What I Want, What I Tell Myself

Today I had an unexpected, brief talk with a member of my committee, who's recently taken on the role of Placement Coordinator for our department. She asked if I planned on hitting the market next year and gave me some general tips, many of which I knew or had already heard about (i.e. don't be surprised if I don't get anything the first year, don't take it personally, etc.). I was explaining a few of the factors that would play into my particular job search that I think might make it a teeny tiny bit easier, one of which being that I didn't want to end up at a Research I school. This seemed to surprise her, as she said, as if to confirm that she heard me correctly, "You don't want to work at an RI?" I wiggled a bit, simply saying that right now, I'm not sure that an RI school is definitely where I'd like to be.

This got me thinking. Why not?

She didn't ask for any reasons (thank goodness), but I nonetheless came away wondering why it was I seem to have already decided this. I think there are some possible reasons:

- my presumption that RI equals stuffy, crazy department full of over-inflated egos?

- maybe I'm not smart enough to work under the pressure of a publish, publish, publish environment?

- maybe I'm not smart enough to publish, publish, publish to begin with?

- my presumption that there's no way I could work at an RI and be successful as both an academic and a parent?

- maybe saying I don't want to work at a RI is a way of not having to deal with being rejected from RIs, which would subsequently make me feel insecure?

- maybe I haven't yet decided what's "harder" for me: research or teaching?

- myabe I like to tell myself that teaching makes a difference to those students in my classes?

- maybe I'm afraid there's not a single RI school in which I'd "fit in;" that is, there seems to be a concept of Research I Material and I'm not it

- or maybe it's simply of way of convincing myself that not wanting an RI job will make it easier for me to get a job at all?

I don't know if the answer lies in any of these possibilities. Or perhaps in all of them combined. I do know, however, that I seem to be telling myself something that may not be quite right. I know I want to teach at a school with a graduate program. And I know I'm not cut out to teach at a community college (I tried...I just won't do it again), which leads me to think I don't want to be at a "teaching school." But there's a lot of area in between, right?

I also wonder if this is part of the process of becoming an academic: the finding where you belong aspect. And then there's the idea that one can't really "know" where one belongs at this stage (the dissertation writing stage). Does everyone go through this? Most people? Surely I'm not the only one? It's times like this when I wish I had more readers.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Happy Thoughts for my Little Brother

For the few readers I have, please send lots of happy thoughts (or prayers if you're the praying kind) toward the Caribbean, as my little brother is there now, working his ass off in vet school at Ross University in St. Kitts, and bracing for Hurricane Dean (in the loop image, you can see the hurricane to the SE of the islands). He sent an e-mail update from campus at 3:08 p.m., letting us know the electricity in his apartment is already out, but that he has plenty of provisions and will call us as soon as he gets phone access again. He actually had the gumption to say "I'll be okay. Don't worry." Sometimes I really think he's smoking crack! My only sibling. 26 years old. Just got engaged. And there's a damn hurricane headed right for him. Maybe now he's wishing he'd had a good enough GPA to get into a damn vet school in this country?! I love him, though.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

B-Day of a Different Sort

Thursday, September 6th is officially my B-Day!

Not the usual B-day, of course, celebrating my birth. Rather, September 6th is the day I'm scheduled to get the braces on! Yesterday the orthodontist took the needed x-rays, made the molds, and explained the process to me, step-by-step. You see, the braces will not serve to close the "gap" I mentioned in my last post, but to open it wider so that an implant can be placed there. Here's how it will work...

Before the braces go on, they'll insert a metal implant into the gumline where the gap is. The implant rod has divets made of a material that attracts surrounding bone tissue. Kind of like planting a "tooth seed," the bone tissue will start attaching itself to and growing around the implant while the braces are on (as little as 12-15 months!). While the braces are on, I'll have a bridge tooth to stand in the gap. My ortho says nobody will ever be able to tell it's not a real tooth...we'll see. After the braces comes off, a tiny screw inside the implant will be unscrewed just a bit, just enough for the dentist to then "build" a tooth (from porcelain) around the implant. And voila, a brand new pretty tooth and a beautiful smile!

The engineering and technology is amazing! I'm both excited and a little scared. Even though the ortho tells me that this isn't a "painful" process, and I'll have some anaesthesia, I don't deal well with pain :( I am thrilled, however, about the possibility that I could have them off by the time MLA rolls around next December. If they aren't off, they still won't be too noticeable (I hope). I'm getting SmartClip braces, which are ceramic (clear-ish) on top and metal on bottom. It's pretty hard to see someone's bottom teeth during regular conversation, so I shouldn't look too freakish as the only 31-yr old with braces.

So yes, I have 3 more weeks until the big day...I can't even imagine how it must feel to smile without worrying how much of my teeth are showing, or whether people can see the gap. I just know I'm going to love the results! Maybe I'll post before and after pics??

Friday, August 10, 2007

What a Dork

As if my last post didn't out me as a complete dork for not having had an iPod, this one surely will do the trick. I have an orthodontic appointment on Tuesday to get fitted for braces. Yes, braces. As in, the ones that go on the teeth of a teenager, except that I'm 31-years old.

You see, I had a baby tooth - the upper-right canine - which didn't come out as it was supposed to. Not to be delayed, the permanent tooth grew right in above it, making itself quite at home and leaving me looking like a human can opener. I was horrified by the dental nightmare taking place before me during my middle-school years. Kids are awful by that age, and nobody hesitated to call me "vampire" or some other hideous name. Eventually, the permanent tooth kicked the baby tooth out and took sole reign of the gumline. This wasn't any better, however, as it lingered there prominently. An eye sore all in its own right. Until, that is....until my mom married my stepdad, who's a pharmacist. Her new..ahem, financial situation allowed for the expense of finally - FINALLY - getting the monstrosity extracted. Once it was pulled out, I was thrillled! My smile almost looked kinda normal, but with a little gap off to the side. Even then, the high school hellions couldn't resist. They wanted to know where the "beast" was. Did I have it mounted? They suggested I drill a hole in it and wear it on a necklace around my neck as if it were a trophy from some big kill in the African Sahara. [Can you tell high school sucked for me?]

I trooped on through life, gap and all, always a bit self-conscious every time I smiled. I even forgot about it most of the time, until I'd see a picture of myself. A picture of me is a rare occasion, though...Once I became a mom, pictures of me pretty much went away. But even now, when I see a picture that I'm in, the hole in my toothline is the first thing I notice (unless I'm not wearing makeup or I'm having a bad hair day).

So, upon my discovery that our graduate student dental plan actually includes orthodontic coverage for ADULTS, I couldn't help but wonder....Does this mean I might be able to afford braces?? Finally?? Hubby and I talked about it, and he absolutely understands how much it means to me. The plan has a flat price that you pay, which is $2100 for adults...Not bad at all compared to the $3500-$5000 we'd be looking at if I didn't have the coverage. The orthodontist has payment plans, but I think we'll pay for the whole thing at once (courtesy of the Fall financial aid refund, of course).

Is this bad? Am I a horribly vain person for wanting this so much? Am I a making an incredibly stupid financial decision to use financial aid for this purpose? This is the only time in my adult life that I've *EVER* seen orthodontic coverage for adults, so I don't get the impression that we'll get this opportunity later. I still feel guilty, though, thinking about what "emergency" we could use that money for later. We'll have no credit card debt and both vehicles are paid off and in decent condition (knock on wood). I just know I'll feel even worse if something happens the day after I get braces and we're SOL on the money front (we wouldn't be completely SOL, but you get the point).

Also, there's the whole issue of being on the job market next year with "clear" braces....Great. Just what I need. MLA with braces!! That would be like high school all over again, except worse because now I give a shit. I just hope I'm making the right decision.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I heart iPods

Can I just say?

I heart my new iPod!
I heart the iTunes store!
I heart my new music!

And I think maybe, just maybe, I'll start to heart working out simply because I get to listen to the best music ever!

iPod where have you been all this time?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Blood Money and iPods

Wanna know the funny thing about having a father who fucked you over? The blood money that can be given trying to make it better.

During his recent visit, my NF ("natural" father) wasn't able to produce a card, but he sure could show me the money. $300 cold hard cash. It's blood money. I know that, my husband knows it, and my mom knows it. It doesn't change a damn thing, but I'll take it....right to the store to get my very own first iPod! At least half anyway.

I'm using the other half for hubby and I to take H to a new waterpark that's about 2 1/2 hours drive away. It is consistently voted one of the top waterparks in the country!! She's gonna love it!

Kids Say The Darndest Things

Kids Say #1
Last Thursday, the Prodigal Father (a.k.a. my "natural" father) came to visit us again. The man isn't what he used to be - in terms of physical appearances - but he still looks like Dad to me. To my 8-yr. old, however, he's Papaw David, and she's not really aware of how he looked 20 years ago or so. In fact, she doesn't know much about him at all because he's so rarely ever been a part of my life since she was born. As she's grown up, especially in the past year or so, she's gotten more curious about where she comes from, where I come from, and how our very branched and blended family works. She knows my mother and father divorced, and that my father re-married, which meant that I had a step-mother. She has asked simple questions like, "Was she nice?" and my commitment to be honest with her (without completely divulging every detail about every incident) has led to me having to answer her question with a "No. She was not nice at all." This, of course, only prompted my oldest child to ask for an example of WESM (Wicked Evil Step-Mother)'s not-niceness. I gave her an example.

While my dad was here last Thursday, we were all sitting in the living room, winding down for the evening, when she randomly bursts out with "My Mom said her stepmom locked her outside." She says this looking first at me, then at my dad. Like a guilty deer caught in headlights, he could only muster a glance at me and ask "Did she?"..... Like he didn't fucking know!!?? Like my brother and I never told him about it when it happened!! I just said "Yep. She sure did." He had nowhere to hide. He said probably the best thing that he could've said (which H would also be able to understand), which was "Well, we don't have to worry about her [stepmom] anymore." (He divorced her you see...then hid from the authorities to avoid being served divorce papers, etc. Quality guy that dad of mine).

Kids Say #2
While my father used to have a full head of curly brown hair in high school, he's now follicle-challenged. It's not shiny bald...but more like a bit of razory shortness in the back and on the sides. He's got nothing on top though. Somehow, H was not about to let this escape her attention and inquiry. As she walked behind the couch on which my father was sitting, she comfortably puts her hand on the top of his head and asks with complete sincerity, "Papaw David, do you want hair to grow here?"

We all had to laugh at that one.

Thank God for the kids, because I don't think I can muster laughing moments with my father anymore. It's hard to be funny when there's so much bad history. But H? She has no history with him...only fun. He took her to the ice skating rink, where they didn't get to skate, but he bought her a fancy skating dress (note: she doesn't even know how to ice skate). He took her roller skating, where she got to wear the dress, then bowling, and then they went to the mall, where my 52-yr old divorcee of a father got his ear pierced at Claire's. This, of course, made him the coolest Papaw in the world to H. It grossed me out...ugh...just ick. But I keep telling myself, this isn't about me: it's about the girls. Letting him take baby steps into our lives is for the girls. And I hope it's them that keep making jokes because it does make the whole situation a bit easier to go through.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Warning: Dissertating Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Since Supadiscomama asked in a comment to my post on my neck injury, I thought I'd take a minute to explain, especially since several other readers are fellow dissertators. As it turns out, dissertating is hazardous to your health. Seriously. How? Well, here's how the chiropractor explained it to me:

When one is studying at a desk, looking down at a book - presumably reading, highlighting, taking notes, etc. - the muscles in the neck and shoulder area are strained for unusually extended amounts of time. Over time, this can cause them to spasm, which is what most of us feel as a "stiff neck." As I personally found out, it can get much worse, and the pain is nothing short of debilitating. And, since we all know that dissertating takes place over a looooong amount of time, this is a real concern for graduate students at this stage. Adding to the already bad situation is the fact that many of us who work in an office on campus are sitting in the crappiest chairs in the world. They are basically whatever the hell the department had laying around and then decided to throw it in our office. They are most definitely NOT ergonomic chairs, made to fit each individual's unique body (no accounting for differences in height, weight, etc.). As an example, I'm 6'2" while one of my officemates is 5'2". We simply cannot comfortably use the same damn chair! This situation constituted part of my recent neck injury.

The other part: bad workout practice. I use a treadmill in warming up for my workout on weights. I do brisk walking, sometimes light jogging, on the treadmill for 30 minutes. Recently, to further help the impact on the booty area, I decided to add the incline feature. Not a little mind you....nooooo, not me... I shot the incline up 5%. I actually thought this wasn't much, but the chiropractor explained that this is the equivalent of trying to climb uphill with a bowling ball on your shoulders (your head weighs about the same amount as a bowling ball). This, my friends, did make sense to me. She advised that if I want a better workout for my booty, then I should hop on the stair machine or do short bursts of sprinting.

So there you have it: the Official Diagnosis for Injury. The Official Solution? Two things:

1 - She suggested a local store (though I'm sure there are others in other locations) where you can find used ergonomic chairs and office furniture for 50% less than usual cost, so I'll be investing in one of those babies as soon as the fall financial aid comes in. It will still cost about $200-$300, but I'm going to be doing this whole academic researching & writing thing for a while, so I consider it an investment.

2 - A book stand. The premier version seems to be this one, but I'll probably look around some more before making a final decision and purchase. These place your book higher, closer to eye level, and can be adjust depending on the size and height of the book. Again, $80 isn't cheap, but after talking with several faculty members (who also frequent the chiropractor's office), it seems that this is another worthwhile investment for my health.

Any experience others have had with similar purchases would be lovely to hear about since I haven't yet figured out what the best brands, styles, etc. are.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ask and Ye Shall Receive!

Several of my prayers seem to have been answered! Today, my neck doesn't hurt!! No pain meds, no heating pad last night, and I can move it, tilt it, roll it around....The steroids did/are doing the trick!

E is also doing much better and back to montessori today, so let's keep the fingers crossed that she has a great day too!

Now I just have lots of catching up to do. But I also have lots to post about when I get some time (a "long talk" with my mom, an upcoming visit from my real father, and a much needed talk with my ex-husband).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Where Have I Been?..You Might Ask?

Okay, so I'm sure nobody's really asking, but there are real reasons for my blogging absence of late. There are, as always, long and short versions, but because one of those reasons involves the likelihood of physical pain, I'll keep things short for now. Without further ado, the top reasons AcadeMama Hasn't Been Posting:

1 - A nasty neck injury/problem that arose out of nowhere a week from this past Saturday (7/21). This problem has since involved - among other things - 1 trip to the urgent care clinic, 1 bottle of Valium, 1 bottle of Vicodin, 2 visits to the chiropractor, 1 visit to the family physician to get referral to an orthopedic specialist, and 1 giant steroid pack. In short, sitting in front of the computer for a long time hurts. A lot. As does rocking my baby to sleep, bending down to hug H, trying to cook dinner, standing at the sink to *try* to wash bottles, etc.

2 - Lots of pain pills = very sleepy AcadeMama = more sleeping and less energy than usual.

3 - Prep work for meeting with Advisor last Friday, despite being in much pain and on much druggage. The end result, however, was fantastic. She told me that not only am I right on track, she'd call me "ahead of the game!" Seriously?! I couldn't believe it! After hearing that, I gave myself permission to not try to be at the office hovering over my books and taking notes for 7 hours straight, three days a week while recuperating from severe compression of three top vertebrae.

4 - H is back = me wanting to spend some quality time with her before she goes back to Home State to make the Grand Tour again. I rested up a few hours last week while she was at daycamp, then picked her up early and she and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie. We loved it! We shared the butteriest popcorn ever! The largest Coke they had! And even a box of Milk Duds! (None of this is the norm for our movie going was a special time for us).

5 - E is sick. She had a viral thing over a week ago that was really just a nasty cough. The pediatrician gave her some medicine, we rode it out, she got better, and we thought we were done. Not so much. She woke up yesterday morning with a fever of 102.9. It turns out the viral thing turned into a bacterial sinus infection, so the doctor put her on antibiotics, and it was a rough night last night. I was up until almost midnight, but the Greatest Daddy Ever took over after that. He literally slept on the couch with her all night, propped up at an angle so that it would be easier on her sinus drainage and breathing. He was up clearing her nose with the booger sucker about every hour and a half until 4:00 a.m., at which time her fever had come back, so he gave her more Tylenol and she was able to get a solid three and half hours of sleep. Did I mention he's the Greatest Daddy Ever? I just really heart my hubby these days! He's stepped up to the plate and taking care of everything he can, including both girls' swim lessons when they haven't been cancelled by rain :(

So, yes. Those are the top 5 reasons I haven't been posting. I'm hoping this steroid pack will do the trick on my neck, though, because a) there are lots of things on which I'd like to post, b) I miss reading all my usual blogs, and c) I really, really don't want to have to go see an orthopedic just sounds scary...and expensive....and like something I just don't have the freaking time to do right now.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Speaking of the Birthday...

I almost forgot this gem of a post.

So, after seeing my whole birthday weekend - and the days before and after - pass without a single phone call or card from anyone in his family, my husband has decided to "write a letter." You see, he has often been accused by his sister and mother of not being very good about remembering to send a birthday card or call for the special day. Never mind the fact that his sister NEVER sends a card for ANY reason, nor does she call him on his birthday. And never mind the fact that he always does send a card, even though it may be a bit late.

Anyway, he decided that he will send a card to his parents (with whom his sister is living because she just graduated college and isn't yet employed). In said letter, he is explaining to them
a)that they make it very difficult for him to want to remember their birthdays when they fail to acknowledge the birthday (hell, the existence) of his wife
b)that he wants to develop a Policy for Birthdays, which includes everyone getting a phone call on the day of and a card as close to that day as possible.

A noble cause indeed, but likely a lost one. You see, his mother is lounging on a beach in the northeast, where she spends her ENTIRE summer (she works for the school district, so she's got the summer off). She reads, shops, goes out for "water ice" (whatever the hell that is), and gabs with all her friends. Despite the fact that the woman can afford things like Coach purses, Pashmina shawls, and routine facials, she evidently has no money leftover to, I don't know, come see her grandchild, whom she's only seen once?? She could get a round-trip ticket down here for about $225, but the idea seems to have never crossed her mind.

In the spirit of fairness, his father gets some blame too. He, however, gets a bit of reprieve b/c the line of work he's in doesn't give him the summer off or near as much flexibility in terms of when he can take vacation days. They live close to my husband's brother and his fiance and child, and they're very much a part of that grandchild's life.

The point of this post - and there really is one - is that it seems to finally be dawning on my husband that his family seems to be content with not being part of our lives. The most hurtful part of it for him, I imagine, is how this will impact E. H is older, so she knows that technically these people are step-relatives. And she's got such fantastic freaking grandparents back in Home State, that she could care less what the Yankee snobs are doing. But E is a different story. She'll have my parents, who are just as great with her as they've been with H, but that's it. No "other side" of family to get all excited about visiting because she won't even know them. The situation is hurtful to me as well, but even more so for my husband because it's his relatives that are totally dropping the ball. He feels guilty and disappointed, and I can't say that I blame him. I just don't think a Birthday Card Policy is going to help anything. Honestly, I don't think anything will help. His mother is just really selfish, and that's not going to change. His dad will go along with anything, but he generally follows her lead.

I'm confident that E will be no worse for their lack of involvement. Between us, H, and the rest of my family, she's still going to be loved and spoiled rotten. I just hope my husband can make some peace with how things turn out and realizes that he isn't responsible for his family's behavior. And thinking of the bright side, we'll never have to do the "family shuffle" on holidays!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Back to Normal...Normal Craziness That Is

My birthday weekend was quite laid back and generally enjoyable. The good: I got to have lunch with my friend and her family; my hubby and I went to see Knocked Up (the funniest movie I've seen in years!); and I got a free birthday drink at a little spot where Hubby and I stopped for a drink on the way back from the movie. If I'd remembered that most places give free b-day drinks, we soooo would have skipped the movie! (Just kidding...the few drinks I did have were just enough to put me in dreamland once I hit the pillow.) The bad: not a single person called me on my birthday :( I had just talked to my mom the day before, so I'm guessing she thought that was good enough. But, yeah, that still leaves my step-dad, my read dad, and the in-laws. C'est la vie.

On the kiddo front, H will be making her Grand Return on Saturday! I'm taking her to see the new Harry Potter movies, as she and I made a pact before she left that neither of us would go see it without the other. I can't wait to have her back home, and I'm interested to see how E reacts to seeing her sister again.

On the dissertation front, things seriously couldn't be better. I had a breakthrough moment this week, in which I realized what will likely be the Main Thread of Argument my dissertation will be making. Prior to this, I'd simply taken my advisor's (and committee's) advice: "I'd find what I find." That is, you can't really "know" ahead of time what you're project will be arguing until you're well into it and the pieces of the puzzle start coming together. Things fall into place, and the argument reveals itself. Well, that happened on Monday, so I e-mailed my advisor with my New Major Idea to see what she thought. She gave me the much-desired pat on the head, saying that this was a critical decision for my project, one that couldn't have been foreseen, and that it will result in a "convincing and very original dissertation." As usual, I'm just really happy when one of my Big Ideas turns out to be good, so it's just icing on the cake when my advisor gives me the big ole' "Congratulations on the great idea!" response. She really has no idea how much I look up to her. She's actually from my Home State, which contributes to my esteem for her because...well, let's just say that I never heard or knew about women like her when I was growing up. Growing up in the country in Home State, I never knew that being a college professor was something I could do in life.

Now back to the craziness that is life with two kids and two dissertations. Both H and E start swimming lessons next week. Those last for two weeks, and then H will go make to Home Start for another visit (just 2 weeks this time). She'll come back with one week left before school, during which time I'm hoping I can schedule some one-on-one math tutoring with one of her former teachers. She lost a lot of her basic math facts skills over 2nd grade as a result of having a teacher who emphasized reading and prepping for the 3rd grade's standardized test. Before she moves on to multiplication tables, etc., she's GOT to get a strong hold on those basic math facts. I'm counting on the chemistry she had with the previous teacher to help her regain some of those skills before school starts.

Friday, July 13, 2007

How Was Your Day?: Or, Non-Conversations Between Dissertating Spouses

Is it just me, or is it suddenly rare to have an extended conversation with ones spouse if both people are writing a dissertation? I find myself having the same conversation with my husband, day after day. It goes like this:

Me: How was your day?
Hubby: Good. I read. How was yours?
Me: Good. I read. What are you working on for tomorrow?
Hubby: I'm gonna finish some more reading, then do some writing. What are you gonna do?
Me: I'm gonna write.

Then a long silence ensues as we both realize there is very little in our days of mutual isolation and office hermitage that affords us the opportunity to have an interesting conversation. I'm a talker (I know, big shocker), so this is a particularly irksome new feature of my marriage, but I'm beginning to wonder if this is just something that comes with the territory of being married to someone who is also at the dissertation stage. It's one thing to be holed up in my office, reading and/or writing for hours, no longer part of the usual chats that take place before and after class when one is in coursework. But it's quite another cruel and unusual punishment that, at the end of said work day, I go home to someone who has also been holed up in the office, reading and/or writing all day, and by no fault of our own we have nothing to offer each other in terms of witty, interesting, or salacious banter.

At some point, though, I have to at least wonder if it's just the fact that we're both doing the diss at the same time? Or, if it's us, and other academic couples have no problem finding hours of fascination in each others' tales of research adventure and dissertation drama?

Tomorrow's my birthday damn it, and I want to have a decent conversation!...With someone *other* than my mother!

I think I may be more sensitive to this because H is out of town, visiting family in Home State. She's been gone for two weeks now, and isn't set to come back until a week from tomorrow. The pleasant peace and quiet has given way to the eerie peace and quiet, which is quickly turning into the it's-too-damn-quiet-in-this-house and I-want-my-little-girl-back-now peace and quiet. She spent the first week with Nana (my mom), she's with her (natural) father this week, and she'll spend next week with her other grandma (ex-husband's mom, who is fabulous by the way). Her dad took this week as vacation - a rare event for him as a ranch manager - and took her and the rest of his immediate family to a nearby water park, and she had a great time. I know she's having lots of fun and all of the family lives back in Home State, so they only have the summer to get these kinds of visits, but I miss her so much. She missed getting to see her baby sister crawl for the first time this week. And she won't be here to help me eat a birthday dessert tomorrow. Our home - our little family bubble - just isn't the same without her noise and laughter and whining and talking back, so I really hope these next few days go by fast.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reading and Note-Taking: A Question for the Dissertators

Since the last thing I want to do is look like a dumb ass to my advisor, I pose this question here to other dissertators. I seem to have a problem. I'm a nerdy sponge reader. What the hell is that, you ask? Let me define.

Nerdy sponge reader: a person who enjoys the dissertation subject being researched so much and is so concerned with making sure she doesn't leave a research stone unturned, that she reads most items cover to cover, soaking up everything and taking lots of notes.

While I can usually tell fairly quickly if an article or book really isn't going to be useful to my project, I have an extremely difficult time "skimming" the items that are related to my area of study. I find myself reading cover to cover, thinking that you just never know what else may come up that might be of help in my project. Now, reading an article start to finish isn't too much of a waste of time. But a book? Sometimes I have the advantage of a great table of contents, and I'm able to determine that only one or two chapters will be of use. And I'm somewhat lucky in the sense that there are only a handful of book-length studies done on the writers I'm studying. However, many of the books are only indirectly linked to my project. My project works to link them directly, of course, but in their own right, they're doing something else. I want to avoid the problem I had when I started reading for prelims: I read cover to cover, outlining entire books and taking pages of notes, rather than simply reading enough to get the main argument of a book.

So, my question to all the other dissertators is: Is it general practice to cherry-pick from your sources? Only read/use what seems obvious and directly related to your project? Don't you need to read most of a book to determine what's connected and what's not? Isn't there the danger of taking something out of context if one doesn't read the "whole" argument? I'm still trying to figure out the ropes here, and I want to make sure I'm "casting my net widely enough" as one of my committee members put it, but I also don't want to waste precious research and writing time reading something simply because I'm really interested in an indirectly-related source. I realize that some sources will turn out to be dead ends. But it seems more difficult to distinguish between sources that will be "a bit useful" and "maybe useful" and the "interesting, maybe I can use this" source. I'm guessing I'll get better as I go.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Just What I Was Thinking...

Apparently, the idea of having a child while in grad school or on the market is a hot topic these days. For an excellent post with revealing (sometimes offensive) comments, see Dean Dad tackle the issue here.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"Bad Kids" and "Bad Parents:" Or, Why Each is Everyone's Problem

Anastasia’s post on the nature and consequences of anti-child rhetoric got me all fired up! The post really didn’t do it, but rather some of the uninformed comments led me to respond here.

I'd go further than what most people seem to be saying in the comments, which is that "it's not the kids’ fault, it's the parents’." What everyone seems to be forgetting is that parenting is a learned behavior. It is *not* 100% "instinctual" or "natural." One learns how to parent in a variety of ways, including learning from ones own parents, media images, popular culture, "expert" literature, etc.

After working at an outpatient mental health clinic, which catered to youth and family services, I learned firsthand that some people never learned how to parent. They never had loving, nurturing parents, and thsu they continue a cycle in which they parent according to what they've seen or experienced in their own childhood. Only *after* things had gone wrong (juvenile crime, substance abuse, child abuse, for example), and their children were taken from the home or in detention, were these parents actually ordered by the court to complete Parenting Classes. Unfortunately, in some cases it was too late. But in others, I saw parents who literally learned - for the first time - how to be affectionate with their children, or how to effectively discipline their children (without yelling or hitting), or how to provide proper guidance and boundaries for their children. These are learned skills, and the parents should not be blamed. Why not? Because of their lack of exposure to any form of positive parenting, they had no idea they were even doing anything wrong. They were simply repeating a cycle, unaware of the consequences.

In addition to this, the fact that our culture doesn’t value the services offered at youth and family clinics like the one I mention points to a larger problem: this is not how most people want their tax money spent. These clinics are non-profit, and they have to beg, borrow, and go through extensive hoop-jumping to get every dollar they can out of the state and federal governments. (Example: The Child Abuse Prevention funding in my home state offered a mere $2,000 a year to the clinic where I worked. Know any social worker willing to work for that?] People in this country are very quick to either a) blame a child for bad behavior or b) blame and judge the parent for not teaching him/her how to behave appropriately, but our culture doesn’t want to take any initiative to help parents learn how to parent. And I’m not talking about all parents. I’m not talking about parents who’ve been raised by responsible parents or family, or parents who are conscious of their role and responsibility in raising a child. I’m talking about parents who – as children – never had the chance to learn how to be a loving, responsible adult, much less a caring and conscientious parent. The cycle has to be broken at some point in order to affect positive change, but it rarely happens from inside the cycle. There are occasional exceptions (i.e. the abused child who eventually learns that abuse isn’t normal and later breaks the cycle), but such exceptions are almost always made possible with the help of others: teachers, loving foster families, and mentors.

So people can sit around and bitch about rude kids all day long (never mind the fact that there are just as many rude adults who have no damn excuse!). Or, they can do something to help with the larger cultural problem: the undervaluing of social services designed to improve the lives of families. As part of this country – this culture – you can be part of the problem or part of the solution, but one has to live with the consequences either way.